A Guide to Common Stony Corals of Florida

A close-up photo of a coral colony, showing several individual coral animals. Jellyfish-like tentacles extend from each animal’s body.

Shallow-water coral reefs have seen large declines in coral cover over the last 40 years. This 19-page guide written by Joseph A. Henry, Roy P. E. Yanong, Maia P. McGuire, and Joshua T. Patterson and published by the UF/IFAS Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation describes Scleractinian (stony) corals that were once prevalent on reefs in Florida. The Coral Reef Protection Act in Florida prohibits damaging coral reef habitats in any way, and several of these species are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. In their natural environment, these corals should never be handled or touched. Although several of the species discussed here are growing more numerous due to their wide tolerance, the overall condition of coral reefs along our coastline is declining, and the reefs are highly threatened because the most important reef-building corals are in a state of decline.